Next week, my kid is going to turn four. FOUR. Time is flying by. But because of her receptive language and speech delays, a lot of times it’s like dealing with someone younger.
Here’s the thing, though: I am really bad at parenting the three-to-four year old. REALLY REALLY NOT GOOD.
I have great admiration of people who adopt preschoolers, because I knew from the beginning that this was the one age group I would fail miserably at. I have never been good with three and four year olds. Never. Infants? No problem. Babies and toddlers? Love. Older kids? Not bad. Teens? I like. But oh, when it comes to three and four year olds? I feel compelled to slam my forehead into my desk all the livelong day.
I just. don’t. get. them.
I don’t think it’s unusual. Many parents I know feel they’re not at their best with a particular age group, while they are totally comfortable with others. Lots of people do NOT get the whole baby thing. That’s cool. Some dread having teens. That’s fine.
But I am here to tell you that the hill I am going to die on? Is peopled with willful, contrary, out of control, dramatic preschoolers.
ESPECIALLY the ones who must give voice to every. single. thought. that passes through their heads. Or the ones who repeat things over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over until you want to tear your own ears off.
A friend of mine says having a three/four year old around the house is like living with a small drunk. They have no volume control, they’re irrational, their emotions are all of extremes, and they fall down a lot. TRUER WORDS WERE NEVER SPOKEN.
We’re living with a preschooler currently, and I am here to tell you that she is THREE AND/OR FOUR IN ALL ITS GLORY.
So I have days, nay WEEKS, in which I am a very bad no good mom.
(And, to be completely honest, my kid is so, SO much easier to parent and so much more easygoing than so many of her peers. And for this I am eternally grateful.)
Fortunately, BDH is considerably better at this age group than I am. He likes having a small person to communicate their needs to him and take direction and be interactive, whereas the smaller versions often gave him cause to sing the “What The Hell Is Happening” parent song. He rolls with some of the weirdnesses of the preschooler, and can be patient and indulge the whims of the all-dancing, all-singing, all-busy-all-the-time preschool model.
Me, on the other hand? I don’t seem to have the patience I once did. Maybe it’s because I am tired, although I am no more tired now than I have been for the last four years. Or indeed, most of my life. No, I think it’s more that I’m just not a personality who can let the noise and the chaos and the unpredictability of three and four year olds roll off my back. I find myself irritated more than I used to be. I find I haven’t the patience that it takes to be a good parent to a preschooler; or at least, to a preschooler who is unable to understand what I am saying.
My poor kid. She is just incapable of following what we tell her, and we forget that key fact an awful lot of the time. She must wonder why we get so frustrated with her. I know she cognitively understands what she can observe, and she definitely gets the tone of a conversation and the expressions on others’ faces. So the fact that my child APOLOGIZES for everything so very often is a little heartbreaking. She KNOWS, even if she doesn’t understand.
So it occurs to me that I have to be better at things.
I have to learn to get better at parenting a three/four year old. I have to learn to be more patient, and more laid back, and more accepting. I have to learn to just say fuck it about a lot of things that make me crazy about this age group and just go with it. And what I can’t do, I have to learn to fake.
When I sit back and look objectively at things, I have to admit that most of it is down to me. That Girl is such a good girl, so wonderful and cheerful and well-behaved, and we could have it so much worse. I observe parents dealing with so much more EVERYTHING from their preschoolers on a regular basis. It’s really ME that has the challenges, and I am struggling because of MY perspective.
I need to let go of the reins a little bit and admit it’s okay if she is saucy, or willful, or contrary, or has the attention span of a soap dish. I have to roll with it if the Drama Llama shows up, and let emotions be what they are. I have to be as good a mom at home, when it is just us, as I am when I know people are watching. I have to care less what other parents and teachers and developmental professionals and the like think, and more about how SHE thinks and feels and is. I have to let her be her. Let her be three, soon to be four.
I am not good at dealing with this age group. I’m not. But I have to learn to be. I owe it to That Girl to suck it up. We’re in these years together.